Flooring Trend 2017: Terracotta Tiles – Terracotta is baked clay. The craft of terracotta involves using clay to prepare reddish brown unglazed earthenware firing it through a very high temperature. The reddish brown color is basically because of the presence of iron. Other colors include yellow, grey and pink. Tiles of this natural material provide a natural look that is unsurpassed in beauty. Moreover, no two tiles are unique. Hence, if you use terracotta tiles, you can be sure of giving a unique look to your house.
Spain, Portugal, France, Italy and Mexico are the main countries of origin for most of the terracotta flooring available today and they supply tiles of numerous colors, shapes, thicknesses and quality. The presence of terracotta tiles gives an earthy and countryside look, and adds simplicity with elegance to the interiors, used wheresoever. Terracotta tiles can be used in the foyer, living room, family room, terrace, balcony, corridors…… actually, any place where you want the earthy feeling, the feeling of the five basic elements of life. Terracotta tiles can be used as paintings or wall hangings. A terracotta tile mounted to a simple creamy background, focused with good yellow lighting can create magical effect.
Essentially there are two basic types of tile, hand-made and machine-made, both giving quite different finishes to the floor.
Handmade terracotta tiles are typically more rustic in their appearance and they display much more texture in their finish – some may even have paw prints or birds feet marks in them, where they have been walked on whilst drying outdoors. Handmade tiles are exceptionally good at disguising dirt as their finish is so variegated and they very much lend themselves to installation in a rustic environment such as a barn conversion etc.
Very often, handmade products are made in a more basic way and kiln temperatures are not as controlled as some machine made products. Some kilns for instance, are fired by wood and often a brisk wind will draw the kiln flu, creating a fluctuation in temperature within the kiln, which causes uneven firing. A consequence of this is that tiles can be produced that have dramatic color variation within themselves and from tile to tile and also salt-pitting – small pockets of mineral salts that erupt from the surface of the tile ranging in size from a pea up to a golf ball in diameter. Small fissures and cracks in the surface of these tiles is also quite common.
Some handmade terracotta tiles are thrown in a mould that rests on sand, the wet clay is trimmed to size and the tile is pushed out of its mould ready for drying and ultimately firing – one of the accidental benefits of this technique is that one side of the tile is sand-textured and the tiles can be laid “upside down” to create a more rustic effect during installation if preferred by the client.
Machine made terracotta is a much less labor intensive process as much of the work blending and cutting the clay is done by machine – this does give a degree of uniformity to these types and the firing process is usually in electric kilns with a close regulation of temperature that produces a much more uniform and blemish-free product. Be aware that even machine made tiles can still have minor flaws such as bowing and minor salt pitting but these really are a characteristic of the material and should be seen as positives rather than negatives.
You need to take a look at your lifestyle before selecting any type of flooring. If you are the sort of person who wants (or needs) to be scrubbing or mopping floors everyday – then avoid terracotta – you are far better with a product such as ceramic.
If you are happy to live with a little dirt, then terracotta might be the right choice. The floor should not look pristine and many clays, particularly handmade ones actually benefit from dirt and neglect. The type of room that is being tiled will also have an influence on your choice – your room décor may not lend itself to the rusticity of some clays but may be better suited to a machine made product.